By H.E. Mr. M Riaz Hamidullah, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands with concurrent accreditation to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The Netherlands was one of the first OECD countries to recognize Bangladesh i.e. within two months’ of independence. This February, the two deltaic countries celebrate the golden jubilee of diplomatic ties that has evolved seamlessly.
While Bangladesh is a natural delta and the Netherlands is a regulated one, living and livelihood in both the densely populated lands significantly revolve around water. The two peoples celebrate a maritime heritage. In spite of diversity in the level of endowments and capacities, the two peoples champion resilience, adaptation and innovation in battling the limits of nature. Many Dutch having been to Bangladesh confide: it is the ceaseless endeavors of the Bangladeshis in converting the ‛challenges’ to ‛opportunities’ that attract them to Bangladesh. A Dutch soon associates him/herself with the ‛can do’ attitude, the uncanny aspiration-resilience-innovation of ordinary young women and men on the streets or villages in Bangladesh.
At the global stage, the two countries see eye-to-eye on many contemporary global issues e.g. SDGs, sustainability, responsible business, water, climate adaptation, women. Dhaka and Den Haag collaborate being driven by a shared understanding of ‛values’ in international domains e.g. peace and justice, crimes against humanity, humanitarianism. Bangladesh pro-actively engages with the Netherlands even on emerging discourses e.g. circular economy, net zero growth. These translate in an exceptional camaraderie between the Prime Ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Mark Rutte, on several platforms.
The Dutch engagements in Bangladesh actually commenced with robust development cooperation soon after independence in the 1970s. Beyond the Dutch governmental entities, over thirty Dutch NGOs and Foundations are active across a wider many of social and economic development. In the five decades since, the accent of the bilateral ties is largely on forging and deepening trade and economic partnerships. That is shepherded by growing number of Dutch and Bangladeshi entrepreneurs and enterprises shaping gainful partnerships, bilaterally or within global supply chains. Shifting from initial focus on building productive capacity in Bangladesh, today the collaboration spread over apparel manufacturing to FMCG, fintech, renewable energy, light engineering et al. With rapid urbanization and organized industrialization in Bangladesh, the Dutch business looks at newer many of collaboration to tap, for instance how to enhance water efficiency all across.
Ranked as the 43rd largest economy, Bangladesh economy is projected to emerge within leading 30, by year 2030. Consequently, demand for commodities, energy, services, technology and infrastructure in Bangladesh keeps rising. The Dutch entrepreneurs, innovators and SMEs consequently find opportunities to engage in mutually beneficial ways by employing ideas, innovation, knowledge and technology. Beyond conventional manufacturing landscape, newer areas and modes of collaboration are evident. Even ‘innovative finance’ is in attention where Dutch angel investors and impact investors are exploring opportunities in Bangladesh. 70+ Bangladeshi digital technology firms are now at work with their Dutch peers, for example.
The ‛Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100’ provides a key entry point for future collaboration. As much as it is to make Bangladesh delta resilient and climate-proof with Dutch expertise and experience in water works, a key focus is also to embark or transformation of Bangladesh agriculture. That is vindicated by several ‛Market Scans’ conducted recently by RVO on Bangladesh agriculture e.g. horticulture, aquaculture, dairy.
The ‛frontiers of possibilities’ is best illustrated by the 70,000 tulips that blossomed on Bangladesh soil this winter, thanks to a small farmer in vicinity of Dhaka. His tulips in ten colors flutter in open field, for the third year in a row. Delwar, the young farmer, left his Dutch tulip-bulb suppliers to disbelief. On a wider note: Delwar stands out to celebrate an uncanny friendship between the peoples of Bangladesh and the Netherlands. He also quietly underlines a unique story of cooperation and collaboration that continue to shape between the two delta.
Delwar should tell many that so many ‛improbable’ can be turned around. As millions of young Bangladeshi women and men aspire and strive to uplift their lives, the next decades promise so much of economic potential to be translated between Bangladesh and the Netherlands.